If you’re living with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, you likely know how the condition can impact your overall health. But, focusing on how diabetes can affect your vision can go a long way toward maintaining your clear view of the world, according to the American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS).
People with diabetes are at risk for complications that cause damage to the retina, a thin layer of light-sensitive nerve tissue that lines the back of the eye. This damage can lead to conditions such as diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema and result in vision loss and preventable blindness. Diabetic retinopathy affects nearly 8 million Americans and occurs in more than half of people diagnosed with diabetes.
But losing sight from diabetes is far from a foregone conclusion, especially with regular dilated eye exams, early diagnosis, and treatment advances made possible by retina specialists. “A few short decades ago there were fewer tools available to diagnose and treat diabetic eye disease, but today the cutting-edge technologies and treatments retina specialists have access to means healthy vision is possible for the vast majority of people with diabetes,” said ASRS President Judy E. Kim, MD, FASRS. “Incorporating healthy behaviors and getting regular dilated eye exams are among the simple steps that bolster healthy retinas and can lead to early diagnosis – a game changer when it comes to maintaining good vision with diabetes.”
During November’s Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, ASRS and America’s retina specialists encourage everyone with diabetes to learn more about how the condition can impact their sight and the steps they can take to protect their vision.
Recognize the Risk to Help See for a Lifetime
Anyone who has diabetes—including Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes—is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Additional factors that can increase the risk include:
Disease duration: the longer you have diabetes, the greater the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy
Poor control of blood sugar levels over time
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
High cholesterol levels
Maintain Healthy Vision with Regular Dilated Eye Exams
Don’t wait for symptoms such as blurred or distorted vision, floaters or a shadow across your field of vision to appear – many people have conditions like diabetic retinopathy for a long time without symptoms. By the time symptoms appear, substantial damage may have occurred. Regular dilated eye exams can reduce the risk of developing more severe complications from the disease. During this exam, a retina specialist places drops in the eyes to make the pupils dilate (open widely) to allow a better view of the inside of the eye, especially the retinal tissue. Then the retina specialist looks for swelling in the retina, evidence of poor retina blood circulation, abnormal blood vessels, or scar tissue on the retina.
Erik, diagnosed with diabetes at age two, has made his vision a priority by seeing a retina specialist for regular dilated eye exams since he was a teen. When he did notice symptoms such as floaters and some bleeding in his eye, known as a vitreous hemorrhage, he contacted his retina specialist immediately and his vision was restored through surgery and ongoing management of his condition.
If you experience symptoms of diabetic eye disease, see a retina specialist as soon as possible.
Adopt Healthy Habits to Protect Against Diabetic Eye Disease
In addition to getting regular dilated eye exams, retina specialists encourage those at risk for diabetic eye disease to actively manage their health and protect their vision by controlling blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol; maintaining a healthy weight; taking any prescribed diabetes medications; quitting smoking and staying active.
Embrace New Treatments That Can Preserve and Even Improve Vision
Thanks to ongoing research into how diabetes affects the eyes and how that damage can be repaired, there are many approved treatments for diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema, including intravitreal injections, laser treatments, and surgery. These procedures can be done in an office or hospital setting to prevent, treat or reverse damage from diabetes in the retina.
Think eye injections sound scary? Many retina patients, like Karen, tell those concerned about eye injections that they can be slightly uncomfortable, “but it doesn’t seem like much of a trade-off at all to preserve my vision.”
Partner with a Retina Specialist to Safeguard Your Sight
Retina specialists are highly skilled physicians and surgeons committed to helping people with retinal conditions preserve and improve their vision. Medical and surgical procedures used by retina specialists are extremely sophisticated, including delicate surgeries on tissue thinner than a butterfly’s wing.
A retina specialist helped professional musician Glen return to the stage after he experienced symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, including blurred vision, which affected his ability to read and drive.
Glen partnered with a retina specialist and learned his condition could be treated and his vision improved with laser treatments and eye injections. With ongoing treatment, Glen is back to performing, driving and can read even the smallest text. (HN/Newswise)